Monday, February 21, 2005

Some Words of Wisdom on Guyana

I've been in contact with a fellow Guyana PCV. This person is nearing service and has been very kind in answering my multitudes of questions with thoughtful and detailed responses. I've learned a lot from this PCV. Below are some of the information shared. I erased any identifying details because I don't want to betray confidence. That said, I didn't find anything negative or disheartening in these comments, even when concerning the inevitable problem of harrassment or personal safety, something all volunteers (and especially those in the Caribbean) face. If the volunteer who shared this with me would prefer I remove their quotes I will gladly do so.

"After living here for so long, I don't really consider it Caribbean at's more like little India.  There is a bit of music they play called chutney and another called soca but they LOVE 80's music from the US.  No Ting [a soft drink from Jamaica that is very popular throughout the Caribbean - Bri]...a lot of natural fruit juice though.  The food East Indian and African's pretty good but can get monotonous.

My apartment flat is 3 rooms, kind of big by volunteer standards and is in [snip].  I have a TV, Internet connection, a big fridge and my landlord does my wash and cooks for me alot.


Things volunteers try to do before they leave Guyana: Kaieteur Falls, Iwokrama, Letham for Rodeo, Carnival in Trinidad, A trip to Suriname, Shell Beach.


I live in the bottom flat of a huge 3 story house with a wall around it.  My landlord lives in the apartment above though she doesn't own it.  She cooks for me quite frequently and I pay her to do my wash.  She's pretty good to me and treats me like a son. This is pretty common for most volunteers to be treated like family.

For your job, you will probably be teaching AIDS/HIV classes, Life Skills classes and filler classes, ie. science, math, wherever they need you.  That is pretty common for your group, which will be the IT/Education group unless they change something up.

...Stay out of shady areas, don't dress like you have money (believe it or not, some volunteers do), keep aware of your surroundings and walk like you ... can kick some ass.  I have been here a while and only get hassled by the homeless...this city isn't any worse than the poorest sections of any big city in the make yourself a victim.

... I would recommend [going to] Barbados and are relatively inexpensive, from 100$ to 150$, you can find hostels and other PC volunteers to stay with if you go to Antigua, St. Lucia and so on.  As for swimming on the main land, never heard of any place to snorkel.  A lot of volunteers head out to Peru for hiking, not much going on in the deep interior of Brazil...

Iwokrama is a nature reserve and protected area where people can stay, walk on the canopy and enjoy nature.  I haven't been, but alot of volunteers have and it's supposed to be really nice.  Rodeo in Letham is a once a year event where there is an actual rodeo.  It's a lot of fun, a chance to chill out and just relax.  There is swimming in a natural spring, walks and hiking.  It's very nice and mountainous.

Most volunteers eat primarily veggie, just because it's really easy to do and very cheap.  A lot of rice here, greens, chow mein, there are a million types of fruits to picks from and the produce is very fresh and tasty.  You'll complain once you get back that the food in the states has no flavor.

Training was two months long and it was held in a few different locations.  They split you up into two groups.  One in [snip], a small Afro-Guyanese village and in [snip], a mixed village.  They teach you culture, language (not much, just slang) job related stuff and so on.  It goes by really quickly but can be tedious.  My host family was great.  I didn't have running water but that wasn't a big host mom cooked a ton of food for me every day, did my wash and so on..I still talk to her.  It was a nice time but by the end of the 2 months I was ready to go out on my own.

I especially found the information on food and training to be useful. I'm a "pescetarian," a person who is largely a vegetarian but also eats fish on rare occasions. I started this last time I went into the Peace Corps because they suggest to veggie volunteers that they expand their diet slightly, so I decided to allow myself to eat fish. I still do so on occasion, and not without a bit of guilt, I might add. Anyway, I was happy to have my suspicions about vegetarian options confirmed; such a huge population of people from India is very promising for vegetarian options, or at least non-red-meat options.

Also it was interesting to learn about the training groups being divided into two different communities for part of training. I have to say, though, the prediction this PCV made about me teaching science and math I found a little unnerving. I really hope they don't put me in charge of a math classroom. You have no idea how bad I am with mathematics -- I struggled through pre-algebra, and to this day am slow doing even basic math functions in my head. It would be a disaster. Science I could handle a little better, because I like to consider myself an "armchair scientist," someone who follows the trends and discoveries, and can manage very complex theories about physics or chemistry or biology, and especially like learning about and discussing astronomy. I can talk theory with the best of them, but I can't do the math to back it up. No math!

I guess with a little training I could teach small AIDS or sanitation classes, but nothing terribly formal or long-term. My strength is in writing or literature. I guess we'll see.


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